What’s Fun About…?: Indium through Lutetium

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Indium (In)

  • When it is bent, it emits a crackling sound.
  • It is commonly used in electronics as solder.
  • Mirrors can be produced by evaporating it onto glass.
  • Transistors, rectifiers, photoconductors, and thermistors use indium.
  • “Indium” comes from the word “indigo,” because its spectrum contains brilliant indigo lines.
  • When added to gallium nitride in LEDs, the light becomes violet.

Iodine (I)

  • Iodine gas has a pinkish-violet color.
  • As a solid, it has a shiny blue-black color.
  • Our thyroid gland used iodine to produce certain hormones.
  • Brine is a rich source of iodine.
  • Potassium iodide is used in alcohol to clean wounds.
  • It is used in medicine for treating goiter, diabetic ulcers, fibrocystic breast disease, and the prevention of breast cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, among other things.

Iridium (Ir)

  • Combined with other elements, it will produce compounds that are red, green, and bluish black.
  • The kilogram is defined as the mass of a piece of platinum iridium metal sealed in a jar. The compound does not react with the chemicals in the air, so its mass stays constant.
  • A type of iridium catalyst can capture sunlight and convert it into chemical energy.
  • It is the second densest element with a density of 22.56 g/cm3 (second to osmium, with 22.59 g/cm3). This is based on measurements, however. Using calculations involving the spacing in its crystal structure show it to be even denser than osmium.
  • No metal is as corrosion-resistant as iridium.
  • Electronics are commonly made with iridium.

Iron (Fe)

  • It is the sixth most common element in the universe.
  • It is necessary for oxygen transportation in the human body, as it is present in hemoglobin.
  • Proteins with high amounts of iron are responsible for blood’s red color.
  • On its own, iron is soft.
  • Plants use iron in chlorophyll for photosynthesis.

Krypton (Kr)

  • A “neon” light made with krypton will glow smokey white.
  • Krypton fluorine lasers produce pulses that with 500 times the power of the U.S. electrical grid, lasting four billionths of a second.
  • Krypton-83 is used in MRI scanners.
  • Some incandescent bulbs have krypton gas inside of them to prolong the life of the tungsten filament.
  • The meter used to be defined by the wavelength of krypton-86.
  • It only reacts with fluorine.

Lanthanum (La)

  • Hybrid cars use it as a component in their batteries.
  • It’s used in laptop batteries.
  • The film and television industry uses it for studio lighting.
  • Lenses for high quality cameras and telescopes use it.
  • Night vision goggles use lanthanum for its infrared-absorbing glass.
  • Optic fibers can contain lanthanum.

Lawrencium (Lr)

  • It does not occur in nature, but is artificially produced.
  • Its most stable isotope has a half-life of 3.6 hours.

Lead (Pb)

  • One reason why lead can be so toxic is that it will displace calcium atoms in our bones.
  • Lead will substitute itself for calcium ions and stick to the receptors in the brain, blocking incoming signals.
  • Pipes use lead as an internal coating. Is this safe? Yes! Lead itself is highly corrosion-resistant, so coating the pipes will prevent other contaminants from leeching into the water. Unless the water is so contaminated that it can corrode lead, it is safe.
  • Lead used to be added to gasoline to prevent knocking. However, dangers to the environment and employees working with it caused it the be phased out. Rather unfortunately, it took as long as 1996 before it was completely banned in the U.S.
  • The graphite in pencils was called “lead” because in England during the 1500s, large graphite deposits were discovered. The discoverers thought it was lead.
  • Paint used to contain lead to make the colors more vibrant. Due to obvious safety risks, it has long since been banned in the U.S. in consumer paint. Road signs contain lead paint because of its enhanced visibility and lack of contact with people.
  • It is commonly used in solder due to its low melting point; however, it is starting to be phased out. This may pose some problems in electronics.
  • It absorbs sound very well.

Lithium (Li)

  • Lithium carbonate is a bipolar medication used to help severe mood swings.
  • It burns bright red.
  • Lithium ion batteries are some of the most common batteries.
  • It’s the least dense metal.
  • Some soaps contain lithium.
  • If it didn’t explode in water, it would float since it has about half the density of water.

Livermorium (Lv)

  • The most stable isotope has a half-life of 53 milliseconds.
  • It was discovered by bombarding curium atoms with calcium ions.

Lutetium (Lu)

  • The petroleum industry uses it for refining, hydrogenation, and polymerization.
  • Computers use a small amount in certain memory devices.
  • PET scanners use it.

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